A Critique of ‘Śrī Gīta Govinda’ (Samālocana – Śrī Gīta Govinda)

Sanatana-Gosvami-prabhuŚrī Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī Prabhu
Soma Prakasa u Vaisnava DharmaThe Soma Prakāśa and Vaiṣṇavism (Soma Prakāśa u Vaiṣṇava Dharma)

Samālocana – Śrī Gīta Govinda (A Critique of 'Śrī Gīta Govinda') was first published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī Vol.7. issue 2 in 1895. In this book review, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura applauds the work of two translators who have rendered the Gīta Govinda into Bengali, presents a synopsis of the life of Jayadeva Gosvāmī, and also gives a warning to those who are bereft of vraja-rasa.

(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)

We were satisfied by reading the Bengali verse translation of Śrī Gīta Govinda composed and published by Śrīyuta Śarat-candra Bandyopādhyāya and Śrīyuta Nagendranātha Ghoṣa. The book is beautiful in all respects. It is very difficult to keep the transcendental mood of Śrī Jayadeva by using simple words. In this book, that has been done perfectly. At this point we will present a śloka and its meaning for the judgment of the readers:

meghair meduram ambaraṁ vana-bhuvaḥ śyāmās tamāla-drumair
naktaṁ bhīrur ayaṁ tvam eva tad imaṁ rādhe gṛhaṁ prāpaya
itthaṁ nanda-nideśataś calitayoḥ praty-adhva-kuñja-drumaṁ
rādhā-mādhavayor jayanti yamunā-kūle rahaḥ-kelayaḥ
(Gīta Govinda 1.1)

The general meaning of this śloka is this:

 kahilena gopa-rāja rādhikāra prati
dekhe, kiśori, niśā āila samprati
gagaṇa haile pūrṇa nīla-megha māle
araṇya śyāmala varṇa śyāmala-tamāle
bhīru e gopāla ekā yāibe kemane
saṅge laye tumi tāre yāha go bhavane
se ādeśa-mate rādhā-vinodinī sukhe
gopāla laiyā yāya geha abhimukhe
pathete kālindi-kūle pratikuñja vane
vijane vividha keli karena dujane
hauk bhakatachite ānanda sañcāra
jaya jaya rādhā-kṛṣṇa nikuñja-vihāra

(“Rādhikā was told about the King of the cowherds, “Look Kiśori! The night has come. The sky is full of dark blue clouds, and the forest is dark due to the black tamāla trees. How can this frightened Gopāla go alone? You should take Him home with You. According to this instruction, the playful Rādhā was happy to take Gopāla to Her house. On the way, there was a forest on the banks of the Kalindī, and the two of Them sported in that place. May such bliss inspire the devotees. All glories, all glories to the amorous pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in the forest bowers.”)

The two honourable translators have interpreted Śrīla Pūjārī Gosvāmī’s explanation of this verse in their commentary:

gagaṇa haiyache pūrṇa nīla-megha-māle
araṇya śyāmala-varṇa śyāmala-tamale
niśā-u prasāre hera svatimira puñje
he bhīru śyāmera tumi laha go nikuñje
śuniyā sakhira sei sukhera ādeśa
calena nikuñje rāi laiya praveśa
pathite vividha keli karena dujane
kalinda-nandinī tīre ānanda vijane
hauk bhakata chite sukhera sañcāra
jaya jaya rādhā-kṛṣṇa nikuñja vihāra

Readers can see how hard the two honourable translators have worked to express the meaning and mood of the śloka. All the translations are simple, sweet and full of bhāva and rasa. Śrī Jayadeva was an outstanding poet. Born in the village of Kendrabilva in Birbhum, he developed a special taste for transcendental kṛṣṇa-tattva due to the association of sādhus. Before leaving home, he was revered as the main poet at the court of Lakṣmaṇa Sena, the ruler of Navadvīpa. At that time, Jayadeva wrote a book on alaṅkāra (poetic embellishments) called Candrāloka. In vyākaraṇa-śāstra (texts on Sanskrit grammar) and alaṅkāra-śāstra, he was an unrivaled paṇḍita. Everyone admits that his poetic power was greater than his scholarship. Leaving the court of the king of Śrī Navadvīpa and wandering in all the holy places, he finally settled in Śrī Puruṣottama-kṣetra; in due course, he took the hand of Padmāvatī Devī in marriage. He composed Śrī Gīta Govinda and offered it to the lotus hands of the pure devotees. Throughout Śrī Gīta Govinda, the līlā of the Supreme Lord is expounded, and in particular this poem deals with the period of the śṛṅgara-rasa.  There is no other work of poetry like this in the world. Mundane critics claim that without material rasa, you cannot experience śṛṅgara-rasa, so their critique of Śrī Gīta Govinda is never appealing in any sense. The poet Jayadeva did not give his book to such critics to review, rather he forbade them to read it. For those that lack any experience of transcendental vraja-rasa, speaking anything in relation to Jayadeva is simply shamelessness.

Both translators are educated and understand rasa. May their translation be an ornament on the ears of the Vaiṣṇavas. We hope that these two gentlemen will make the Vaiṣṇavas happy by translating the text of Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī’s Gītāvalī into Bengali with such care.

(‘Samālocana – Śrī Gīta Govinda’ (A Critique of ‘Śrī Gīta Govinda’) by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura – was first published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī Vol.7. issue 2 in 1895, and translated into English by Swami B.V. Giri)
Sanatana-Gosvami-prabhuŚrī Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī Prabhu
Soma Prakasa u Vaisnava DharmaThe Soma Prakāśa and Vaiṣṇavism (Soma Prakāśa u Vaiṣṇava Dharma)

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